Health Impact Bonds


Fresno to Pioneer Public Health Bonds

By Alice Daniel, KQED

Farming in California's Central Valley is a source of smog, a major contributor to the region's high asthma rates. (Getty Images)

The latest new thing in social policy circles is the social impact bond, and now Fresno is set to become the first city in the nation to test the idea of using this social bond idea to improve the health of the community.

Municipal bonds allow investors to put money into building roads or constructing schools. Health impact bonds aren’t much different, says Kevin Hamilton of the Fresno nonprofit health agency Clinica Sierra Vista. Instead of infrastructure, the investment is in public health, in this case asthma prevention.

“There’s no reason to think of the public health in any different way than you do the public transportation system or the public school system,” Hamilton says, “all of which are things that have benefited from bond issues over time. No reason not to think of this in the same fashion.”

The California Endowment is paying for Fresno’s pilot project. The concept was developed by a Connecticut firm called Collective Health. The goal is to show that a systematic asthma prevention program can save enough money to entice private investors. One in six Fresno residents suffers from asthma. Hamilton says about 20 asthma patients go to the ER every day and of those, three are hospitalized. Continue reading